Today we travel from Caen through Belgium to the Netherlands. During the morning drive we watch a documentary 100 Days of Normandie about D-Day and the continuing battle after June 6, 1945 until September when Paris was finally liberated. We’ve been so impressed with the films, lectures and other resources that Image has provided during the trip. Few World War specialty tours are available, and this one is affordable, mostly staying in historical out-of-the-way accommodations that give us the feel of the period we’re visiting.
We’re ahead of schedule, so we can make another World War 1 stop at the Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial, on the southeast edge of the town of Waregem, Belgium. Poppy flowers began to grow after the burial of the three-hundred fallen soldiers, which led Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write his memorable and apropos poem In Flanders Fields (public domain). A large, moving, print of the poem hangs in the cemetery reception center (below).
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
This was one of our more emotional stops during the trip.
A recent New York Times editorial by Geoffrey Wawro reminds us that nearly a quarter of the American Army draftees in 1918 were foreign born. How ironic that so many died here, on foreign soil, so soon after adopting their new country.
If you like medieval architecture, you will love Antwerp, Belgium and its guild halls. But also look for the ghost of Reubens, Belgian lace, “1,000 brands of beer,” diamonds, and chocolates—hide the purse!
During our brief time here, we buy a few gifts, visit the old castle, now a mariner’s museum, and walk the town center with the well-preserved cathedral and guild halls.
We arrive at our hotel in Tiel in the Netherlands. Three nights in a row in a modern hotel…with laundry service and a casino! We do like the historical hotels, but the reprieve from nightly packing and unpacking is welcome.
Next time: World War 2: Action in the Netherlands
Ann Otto writes fiction based on factual as well as oral history. Her debut novel, Yours in a Hurry, about Ohio siblings relocating to California in the 1910’s, is available on-line at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, and at locations listed on her website at www.ann-otto.com. Ann’s academic background is in history, English, and behavioral science, and she has published in academic and professional journals. She loves speaking with groups about all things history, writing, and the events, locations, and characters from Yours in a Hurry. She is currently working on her next novel about Ohio’s Appalachia in the 1920s and preparing for future works by blogging about a recent World War 2 European tour. She can be reached through the website, on Facebook @Annottoauthor or www.Goodreads.com.